A FASCINATING history of Clitheroe’s Torchlight Processions was presented to Civic Society members by Sue Holden, Community Heritage Manager at the town’s library.
They learnt that Clitheroe is unusual in having this event to celebrate occasions of national rejoicing, especially those connected with royalty.
The first Torchlight Procession was in 1887 for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Coun. Tom Garnett, of Low Moor Mill, and Mr William Self Weeks (an eminent local historian and Town Clerk) headed the organisation. Clitheroe Bicycle Club, the horse-drawn steam fire engine, the Jubilee Christy minstrels were among some 400 people and 60 horse riders to take part. The mock corporation of “Cheshire” (Shawbridge) was headed by Col. Blood. There was an ox roast in the cattle market and a new mayoral chain was presented to the town by Alderman William Garnett.
The next procession, in 1893, was for the marriage of George V to Princess Mary of Teck. Clitheroe Catholic Band was one of seven bands listed, including Bawdlands Main Sewer Band and Captain Trotters Cowheel Prize Band.
In 1897, for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the procession was over a mile long. More mock corporations were formed as skits on the town corporation and in the early 1900s elaborate arches were built around the town separating each district.
In 1951, the Gas Works dragon stole the show (no health and safety then!). Percy, the Low Moor pig, never missed an outing. Local and national events were portrayed on the floats. Whalley Arches was suggested as new offices for Ribble Valley Borough Council, with one arch per department! A Torchlight King, Queen and Jester were appointed.
Sue Holden is building up a collection of information on past Torchlight Processions and would welcome all contributions – memories and photos. She is the author a book on the subject, “Clitheroe Ablaze with Glory”, which is still available. Fun, enjoyment, a sense of humour and a sense of community sum up Clitheroe’s Torchlight tradition.
Thanks were expressed for such a fascinating and humorous talk and Clitheroe Civic Society will be there for the 2012 Clitheroe Torchlight on August 25th for the first time.
The society’s next meeting, on September 4th, will be a buffet to celebrate 50 years of Clitheroe Civic Society, followed by its AGM. All former members are invited and tickets are £4.50. For more details phone 01200 429187.